Reproductive health of married adolescents in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan is critical

 

Pune, May 13, 2010: Population and health experts expressed concern over the reproductive health status of married adolescents in the western states of India, and recommended that it was urgent to scale up adolescent reproductive health services, and address the issues of high fertility and early age at marriage. The experts were meeting at a regional conference titled Health, Population and Social Development - Issues of Western States – Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan organized by the Population Foundation of India here today.

 

It was pointed out that over 70 per cent of adolescent girls were suffering from moderate to severe anemia, which gets compounded during pregnancy. In Rajasthan for example, of which 22per cent population is adolescent, more than 50per cent of the girls get married before the age of 18.  Malnutrition, anaemia and nutrition deprivation compounds health risks during pregnancy for these girls. Adolescent mothers are therefore, at a higher risk for miscarriage, maternal mortality and giving birth to stillborn and underweight babies.

 

The case of Gujarat and Maharashtra is similar to that of Rajasthan.

 

The government and other stakeholders like business, civil society organisations and health experts need to come together  to form a cross-sectoral alliance that is deeply committed to creating solutions to address the issue of child malnutrition. It was suggested that there is a need to reach larger geographical areas and integrate the learning into government health and nutrition programmes.

 

A session on Community Action under the National Rural Health Mission, included presentations on the pilot efforts at community monitoring in Maharashtra, the work of Village Health and Sanitation Committees (VHSC) and access to healthcare and micro insurance through women's cooperatives. On VHSCs, speakers pointed out that there was a dearth of grassroots health functionaries in peripheral areas as a result of which the committees could not meet regularly and properly utilize the untied funds allotted to them. There was thus a need for adequate training facilities for capacity building of VHSC members for a common perspective towards integration of schemes from various departments.

 

The conference, which is second in the series to commemorate the 40th year of service of PFI to the country, was inaugurated by Dr Narendra Jadhav, Member, Planning Commission.

 

Welcoming the dignitaries, Mr A R Nanda, Executive Director of PFI, said that the conference reinforced the Foundation’s commitment and vision to  “promote, foster and inspire sustainable and balanced human development with a focus on population stabilization through an enabling environment for an ascending quality of life with equity and justice”.

 

Three regional conferences to be followed by a national conference have been planned to bring out region specific priorities and recommendations related to population, health and social development.

 

Mr Nanda said, the first regional conference had been held in Bhubaneswar on February 16-17, 2010 for the states of Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, and recommendations were made to the respective state governments.

 

The inauguration function was presided over by MrHari Shankar Singhania, Chairperson, Governing Board, PFI who is also the Chairperson of the JK Group of Industries. Mr B G Deshmukh, former Cabinet Secretary, Government of India and the current Vice-Chairman of the Governing Board of PFI, and other Board Members of PFI,  Justice Leila Seth, Prof. Ranjit Roy Choudhary, Mr B G Verghese, Mr J C Pant, and Dr Nina Puri were present.

 

The conference took note of the many new initiatives, ideas and feedback on the interventions and issues related to health and family welfare of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.  PFI had brought together on one platform, administrators, social scientists and scholars, national/international institutions and NGOs concerned with these issues for discussion on the achievements, gaps and recommendations for the future.

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